Cau­tion on leas­ing coun­cil’s prop­erty

Lakes health trust keen to oc­cupy un­used site

Otago Daily Times - - WANAKA TIMES - JONO ED­WARDS jono.ed­wards@odt.co.nz

THE Otago Re­gional Coun­cil is ner­vous about leas­ing an un­used de­pot it owns in Wanaka to a trust ded­i­cated to the health of alpine lakes.

At a coun­cil meet­ing this week the Alpine Lakes Re­search and Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre asked the re­gional coun­cil to lease it a build­ing it owns in River­bank Rd.

The cen­tre was started by the late Dr Mag­gie Lawton and is now spear­headed by her daugh­ter, Otago re­gional coun­cil­lor Ella Lawton.

The trust ap­plied to rent the site for a very low or nom­i­nal fee.

The pro­posal was nearly lost, but the coun­cil agreed to di­rect chief ex­ec­u­tive Sarah Gard­ner to en­ter dis­cus­sions with the trust about mu­tu­ally ac­cept­able terms such as the length of the lease and pro­posed out­comes.

A re­port will then come back to coun­cil.

The site con­tains one older brick build­ing pre­vi­ously used for ‘‘mix­ing poi­son’’ and an­other newer shed which is not con­nected to wa­ter.

Trustee Ruth Har­ri­son said the trust would need to do some mit­i­ga­tion work be­cause of the risk of haz­ardous chem­i­cals.

The coun­cil should sup­port the cen­tre as it would be do­ing a work which would help achieve coun­cil goals, she said.

Cr Lawton, speak­ing as the trust’s chair­woman, said it was ‘‘well aware’’ of the need to up­grade the build­ing, but its ‘‘bones’’ were great.

The group was ini­tially pur­su­ing a de­com­mis­sioned Otago Fish and Game hatch­ery site in Stone St.

There were ‘‘com­pli­ca­tions’’ with that site, Cr Lawton said.

Cr Michael Deaker said he had ‘‘se­ri­ous dis­com­fort with the process and Cr Lawton’s role in it’’.

‘‘I feel I know far too lit­tle about what we’re do­ing. It seems to be we’re ne­go­ti­at­ing with a fog of cloud.’’

Cr Graeme Bell said the site was prime for fu­ture use by the re­gional coun­cil.

Cr Car­men Hope said she was wor­ried about the prece­dent of other groups want­ing use of coun­cil build­ings, but thought the project had ‘‘fab­u­lous po­ten­tial’’.

Cr Gretchen Robertson said she was against the pro­posal, de­spite it be­ing ‘‘re­ally ex­cit­ing’’.

‘‘I think in the next few years we’re go­ing to need that space. We have a fairly valu­able site. Do we need this for our own pur­poses? If not, sell it, be­cause it’s owned by ratepay­ers.’’

The cen­tre did not feel like a ‘‘short­time pro­posal’’, she said.

Cr Michael Laws said the coun­cil would not know it had an empty build­ing if it were not for the pro­posal.

‘‘What the hell have we been do­ing with it for the last few years?’’

He would be sad for the project to be stamped out be­fore en­ter­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the trust, he said.

A coun­cil re­port said one re­gional coun­cil staff mem­ber op­er­ated from the build­ing, but they could be based in Cromwell.

GoBus has re­quested to pay to lease space on the north of the site to house buses. It will be re­quired to fence it off from the rest of the site.

The cen­tre would be run by the Lake Wanaka Trust and in­cor­po­rate peo­ple and or­gan­i­sa­tions ded­i­cated to im­prov­ing the health of alpine lakes.

PHOTO: MARK PRICE

The Otago Re­gional Coun­cil prop­erty in River­bank Rd, Wanaka.

Michael Deaker

Ella Lawton

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